Busloads of people, mostly women, from South Jersey will trek to Washington, D.C., a day after President-elect Donald J. Trump’s inauguration to take part in a march expected to draw a crowd of 200,000.
Some are going to protest a new president they feel has made derogatory remarks toward women, while others, such as Thelma Witherspoon, of Hamilton Township, are worried more about the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“I think there’s some tweaking that needs to be done, but I don’t think it has to be eliminated,” said Witherspoon, who will board an early-morning bus Saturday from Pleasantville.
The Women’s March on Washington is an effort to promote women’s rights after a contentious presidential campaign, organizers say.
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“I think everybody’s pretty scared with this election,” said Kathleen Arena, of Cape May, who is going to the event. “How far we’ve come is actually up in the air at this time.”
Arena will depart from Cape May about 4:45 a.m. on a bus packed with about 50 others. Her group plans to don pink hats with cat ears in response to vulgar remarks Trump made about grabbing women’s genitals in a leaked video.
A variety of concerns besides Trump’s election are motivating locals to embark on the journey to the capital, including education, health care, climate change and the funding of Planned Parenthood.
Witherspoon and Stephenine Dixon, co-chairwoman of the South Jersey Democratic Women’s Forum, both said they are attending in an attempt to save health benefits Republicans have vowed to roll back.
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“You’re trying to eliminate something you have no backup for,” said Dixon, who is organizing the trip from Pleasantville.
Dixon, who served on City Council in Atlantic City in 2002, said she struggled to get insurance when she had to take a leave of absence from her job at the now-shuttered Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino to take care of her ailing father.
“If you have no insurance, you don’t have anything,” she said.
“I’m a high risk for cancer,” said Dixon, adding that both of her parents died of the disease. “I need my mammograms. I need my pap smears.”
Witherspoon and Dixon will join more than 50 others making the trip from Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Pleasantville.
“I’m going to make sure that the concerns and the issues women have will be put at the forefront,” said Witherspoon, a minister at the Westminster Christian Worship Center in Atlantic City and a radio host on WEHA-FM 88.7, a gospel radio station.
Alongside promoting issues important to women, outrage over the tone of Trump’s campaign and his victory motivates many of the activists planning to attend Saturday’s event.
“Donald Trump is the worst person ever to be in the White House, and he hasn’t even been sworn in yet,” said Daniel Campbell, president of the Egg Harbor Township Democratic Club.
Campbell’s 55-member group will leave early in the morning from Ocean Heights Presbyterian Church in Egg Harbor Township.
For Campbell and others, the march is a way to push back against the new president.
“I’m just going because I don’t want him to be president,” said Janis Quiggle, 66, of Cape May, who’s going on the Cape May bus. “I don’t agree with his policies.”
Dixon was involved in the failed effort to defeat Trump. As an organizer for the Hillary Clinton campaign, she traveled to Virginia, a swing state, to try to convince voters to cast ballots for the Democratic nominee.
There, she saw the benefits of rallies and organizing events and hopes the women’s march and women’s forum efforts will encourage local women to seek political office.
“If you look at Atlantic County, how many leadership positions do you see women in?” Dixon asked.
Witherspoon said Saturday’s event recalls the women’s suffrage marches staged in the early 20th century.
“The last march that was this large was on Aug. 28, 1963,” said Witherspoon, referring to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington. “It’s huge.”
Those not able or willing to travel to the capital have other options. Local organizers have planned more than 380 “sister marches” to support the effort around the world, including in Trenton, according to the event’s website.
“This is about trickle-down bigotry,” Elizabeth Meyer, founder of the Women’s March on New Jersey, said in a statement. “Our America is great. On Jan. 21, we will be here, in Trenton, to make it greater. We will move forward, not backward.”
“The basic core of it, I guess, is women’s rights are human rights,” said Arena, echoing a refrain reiterated on the march’s website.